KAMPALA, UGANDA: The High Court in Kampala has dismissed a bail application of two former presidential Candidates Dr. Kizza Besigye and Samuel Walter Lubega Mukaku despite spending two weeks in Luzira prison.
Besigye and Mukaku were on June 15 arrested in downtown Kampala for mobilizing Ugandans to protest against government inaction to cushion vulnerable citizens against skyrocketing commodity prices.
Two days later, the pair were remanded to Luzira Prison on June 17th after being charged with incitement to violence before Buganda Road Court Magistrate. A week later, the pair applied to be released on bail but were denied by Magistrate Asuman Muhuma on grounds that the two had turned into “habitual offenders”.
This prompted the suspects’ lawyers led by Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago to petition the High Court challenging the lower court’s decision denying them bail arguing that they have never been convicted nor served any sentence and therefore are not guilty.
“The trial magistrate wrongfully denied the applicants bail basing on a track record of unprosecuted frivolous criminal cases opened against them by the State. The decision of the learned trial magistrate denying bail based on the aforementioned reasons derogated the applicant’s rights to a fair hearing, civil liberties and the presumption of innocence,” the lawyers told High Court in last week’s petition.
However, presiding over their petition hearing on Thursday afternoon, High Court Judge, Mr. Tadeo Asiimwe dismissed the pair’s bail application arguing that they should have petitioned the Chief Magistrate’s Court and not the High Court.
“The petitions are therefore dismissed however the applicants can apply for bail in a grade one magistrate court or before the magistrate handling this matter,” Tadeo Asiimwe ruled.
The ruling followed a submission by State Prosecution led by Mr Isaiah Wanamama seeking a preliminary objection arguing that Dr Besigye’s bail application was prematurely before the High Court.
According to Mr. Wanamama, Section 75 of the Magistrates Court Act dictates that Besigye should have filed his bail application appeal before the Chief Magistrate and not jump the judicial hierarchy structure to file the same application before the High Court.
“They didn’t exhaust the magistrate structures as they should have first gone to the Chief Magistrate where the main criminal matter is pending. They can only come here (High Court) if the Chief Magistrate has denied bail and not a Grade One Magistrate as it’s the case,” Mr Wanamama argued.
Besigye had presented his wife, Dr. Winnie Byanyima who is also the executive director of UNAIDS, Kampala Deputy Lord Mayor Doreen Nyanjura, and former Rukungiri Municipality MP, Roland Mugume while Mukaku presented Buikwe South MP Michael Lulume Bayigga and former Mbale District Woman MP aspirant Margaret Wokuri.
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